Khawaja keen to establish white-ball credentials
At a time when Australia's ODI fast-bowling depth is being tested, they seem to have no shortage of quality batsmen to call on. Centuries to George Bailey and Steven Smith won Australia the first ODI against India in Perth on Tuesday, and for the second game they will likely bring in a bloke with a List A batting average of 72.86 in the past three years. And one of the most in-form batsmen in the country probably still won't get a game.
The former is Shaun Marsh, the back-up batsman in the squad and the likely beneficiary of David Warner's absence for paternity leave over the next two games. The latter is Usman Khawaja, who is joining the squad for the Brisbane and Melbourne ODIs, and is enjoying a remarkable run of form whatever the colour of the ball: not since October has Khawaja been dismissed below 50 in any format.
Yet it is hard to argue with the probable batting line-up Australia will use in Brisbane, where Marsh is expected to open with Aaron Finch. After all, Marsh was second only to Smith on the Matador Cup run tally in October, with 390 at 65.00, and the last time he played for Australia he plundered 182 in the Hobart Test against West Indies. Khawaja's return from injury bumped Marsh from the Test side; now Marsh looks set to keep Khawaja out of the ODIs.
It is nearly three years since Khawaja last played ODI cricket for Australia, and even then he played only three games without reaching double figures. However, since his most recent ODI appearance Khawaja has thrived in one-day cricket, averaging 56.88 in List A matches, although he played only three Matador Cup games this summer due to a hamstring injury. Khawaja hopes his selection is the first step towards becoming an ODI regular.
"The hunger is to play as many forms of the game as possible," he said on Wednesday. "I've made it clear that I've always wanted to play one-dayers. But sometimes it's about timing. If I'm going to get my opportunity, I don't know, but when I do get it hopefully I can take it and be more than just a Test cricketer. At this moment I'm really happy with how I'm hitting the white ball."
Already 2015-16 has been a breakout summer for Khawaja in the Test team - he scored centuries in all three Tests in which he batted, in Brisbane, Perth, and Melbourne. His last two BBL innings, an unbeaten 109 before Christmas and 62 on Monday, suggest his white-ball form is indeed strong.
"I'm really happy with how the Test stuff went," Khawaja said. "There's a lot of one-day cricket coming up in the next year. I'd love to be a part of it. Hopefully I can contribute moving forward."
However, Khawaja knows he will likely be warming the bench for the second ODI in Brisbane on Friday. "I haven't been told anything," he said. "I'm just using common sense - SOS [Marsh] is already there so I'd assume he'd slot into Davey's spot and I'll be the spare batsman. That's what I'm expecting."
Australia will be aiming to secure a 2-0 lead in the five-match series in Brisbane, after their win in the high-scoring opener in Perth on Tuesday. India managed 3 for 309 against a new-look Australia attack featuring debutant fast bowlers Scott Boland and Joel Paris, whose combined figures read 0 for 127 from 18 overs, but Australia's batsmen chased down the target with four balls to spare.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale